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American Immigration History

American Immigration History

Ellis Island is recognized throughout the world as a symbol of American Immigration, but passengers were arriving through the Port of New York for more than a century before Ellis Island opened in 1892. Use the template below to search for possible matching records indexed and scanned as part of the Immigration Collection.

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    Timeline of American Immigration History (1915-1954)
  • 1815 — The first great wave of immigration begins, bringing 5 million immigrants through 1860
  • 1818 — Liverpool becomes the most-used port of departure for Irish and British immigrants
  • 1819 — First federal legislation on immigration requires notation of passenger lists
  • 1820 — US population is 9.6 million, about 151,000 new immigrants arrive in 1820 alone
  • 1825 — Great Britain decrees that England is overpopulated and repeals laws prohibiting
                emigration, the first group of Norwegian immigrants arrive
  • 1846 — Crop failures in Europe, mortgage foreclosures send tens of thousands of dispossessed
                to the United States
  • 1846 — Irish of all classes emigrate to the United States as a result of the potato famine
  • 1848 — German political refugees emigrate following the failure of a revolution
  • 1862 — The Homestead Act encourages naturalization by granting citizens title to 160 acres
  • 1875 — First limitations on immigration. Residency permits required of Asians
  • 1880 — The U.S. population is 50,155,783 in 1880, more than 5.2 million immigrants
                enter the country between 1880 and 1890
  • 1882 — Chinese exclusion law is established, Russian anti-Semitism prompts a sharp
                rise in Jewish emigration
  • 1890 — New York is home to as many Germans as Hamburg, Germany
  • 1891 — The Bureau of Immigration is established. Congress adds health qualifications
                to immigration restrictions
  • 1892 — Ellis Island replaces Castle Garden
  • 1894 — To escape Moslem massacres, Armenian Christians emigrate through 1896
  • 1897 — Pine-frame buildings on Ellis Island are burned to the ground in a disastrous fire
  • 1900 — The U.S. population is 75,994,575, more than 3,687,000 immigrants were admitted
                in the previous ten years. Ellis Island reopens with brick and ironwork structures
  • 1906 — Bureau of Immigration is established
  • 1910 — The Mexican Revolution sends thousands to the United States seeking employment
  • 1914 — Through 1918, World War I halts a period of mass migration to the United States
  • 1921 — The first quantitave immigration law sets temporary annual quotas
                according to nationality, Immigration drops off
  • 1924 — The National Origins Act establishes a discriminatory quota system.
                The Border Patrol is established
  • 1940 — The Alien Registration Act calls for registration and fingerprinting of all aliens.
                Approximately 5 million aliens register
  • 1946 — The War Brides Act facilitates the immigration of foreign-born wives,
                fiances, husbands, and children of U.S. Armed Forces personnel
  • 1952 — The Immigration and Naturalization Act brings into one comprehensive statute
                the multiple laws that govern immigration and naturalization to date
  • 1954 — Ellis Island closes, marking an end to mass immigration

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